Asiatic Black Bear Still Survives in Nuristan, Afghanistan


Although data on population sizes and trends are lacking for the Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) across great swathes of Asia, the documentation of widespread illegal killing—both retaliatory and especially for trade in parts for traditional medicines—combined with loss of habitat, support the conclusion that this species is likely declining in most parts of its range (IUCN 2008). Worldwide the species is listed as vulnerable.

Little recent information exists about Asiatic black bears in western Asia (Gutleb and Ziaie 1999, Ahmadzadeh et al. 2003) and virtually nothing concerning its status in Afghanistan. Habibi (2003) declared the species threatened in the country based on observations made in the late 1970s and claimed that indiscriminate hunting had probably depleted the population in large parts of its range. Once occurring across most of eastern Afghanistan, nowadays it is said to subsist only in isolated pockets of forests in remote parts of the eastern provinces. Based on these indications, on the occasional occurrence of cubs for sale in eastern Afghanistan and on the presence of four young adult specimens at the Kabul zoo, allegedly procured as cubs from the central part of Nuristan province, in December 2006, the Wildlife Conservation Sociey (WCS) lauched a series of wildlife surveys to detect the presence of Asiatic black bears in south-central Nuristan on the border with Kunar province (see map). The study was conducted in the framework of the WCS Biodiversity Conservation Program, a wider conservation initiative in Afghanistan implemented by WCS and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

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Copyright © 2009 International Bear News Distribution. This article first appeared in International Bear News 18:4 (2009), 14-15.

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